Friday, 17 March 2017

Some Bonus Features

Not every movie I watch gets the 300-word review treatment. Time – but more often than not – drive dictates when I’m able/when I feel like drawing up a few thoughts about a recently-watched flick. However, today I thought I would share some thoughts on an assortment of movies ranging from old favorites to fascinating first-time viewings:

American Psycho (2000)
This is the very definition of a niche movie. It’ statement about ‘80s yuppie culture is interestingly contrasted by its depiction of over-the-top violence. Christian Bale shines in the lead role and his performance brings out some of the most amusing aspects of this pitch-black comedy. The now infamous murder scene set to Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to be Square” is genuinely funny. Not a movie for all palates, but to those with a taste for the bizarre, American Psycho is likely to linger long in the memory.

Black Swan (2010)
Managing to combine elements which are both beautiful and disturbing, Black Swan is a truly impressive psychological drama. Natalie Portman won a deserved Oscar for Best Actress for her role as a ballerina slowly being consumed by her dark side, and her performance is central to this story. Black Swan is the story of a transformation and the film is also; going from straight drama, to psychological thriller, to all-out horror. A spellbinding achievement, a descent into madness is worth the price of admission.

The Prestige (2006)
It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong. Especially for me when I’m talking about movies. For years, I said that I was not a fan of Christopher Nolan’s film about at-war magicians. But, upon a recent re-watch, I was forced to eat my words. Truly, The Prestige is an exciting, taut, complex thriller, that explores the world of magic and the depths of obsession with skill and intelligence. The movie is surely one of the most well-cast films in recent memory too with an ensemble headed by Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, and David Bowie as the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla. The front of the DVD box for The Prestige boasts a glowing review by Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers saying, “You want to see it again the second it’s over” and, you know, I couldn’t agree more.

Memento (2000)
I have always been a little skeptical of Christopher Nolan. The reasons are uncertain, even to me, but I am beginning to recant any and all negatives thoughts I may have had for the director. If he didn’t sell me with (what I think to be his masterpiece) The Prestige, then he’s certainly won me over with Memento. Memento is a film so incredibly original and unique; it is difficult to liken it to any other movie. Its story is fascinating. Its performances are excellent, and it is surely one of the most cleverly structured movies I have ever watched. Just as much of a puzzle for its audience as it is for Guy Pearce’s central character, Memento is a movie which warrants revisiting sooner rather than later.

Whiplash (2014)
There are some movies which I know that I love the instant they are over, and Whiplash is a prime example. Watching it again after a long time, I was left with the same intense, emotional response I had when I watched the film for the very first time. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons deliver powerhouse performances in a movie which is so well told and edited. Destined to become a modern day classic, Whiplash is a fitting moniker for a movie of this kind: a breathless, intense thrill ride from beginning to end.

JFK (1991)
You’d think that it would be easy to talk about one of your all-time favorite movies. It isn’t. Suffice it to say that upon revisiting Oliver Stone’s epic masterpiece, I was left in the same breathless state as I was with Whiplash. From the first time that I watched it, JFK has been able to pull me into its twisting and turning narrative, presented in some of most brilliantly-edited together series of montages I have ever beheld. JFK really transcends being a simple conspiracy thriller. It really is an experience and a one-of-a-kind one at that.

Gone Girl (2014)
Opinion seems to be divided on David Fincher’s adaption of Gillian Flynn’s thriller, but I am of the mind that the film is a stylish, gripping character study. While the story may have more than a handful of unplugged plot-holes to its detriment, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike lead an impressive cast (which includes Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry both acting against type and truly succeeding in doing so) and, as usual, Fincher’s style is a feast for the eyes. Gone Girl is, at its heart, a domestic drama and a talented production team is able to elevate that to new heights. Come for the interesting story and stay for the fantastic performances and direction.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Another from director David Fincher, this adaptation of the best-selling thriller once more shows off what a unique artistic vision Fincher is behind the camera. Swathed in chilling, grey tones (matching the setting of an almost tangibly frigid Swedish winter); The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was deservedly nominated for Best Cinematography. A truly disturbing story which manages to be equal parts Agatha Christie mystery and an episode of Law and Order: SVU, the film boasts a remarkable central performance by Rooney Mara as the title character and an equally fine turn by Daniel Craig as a determined investigator. Dark and gritty wouldn’t do this film’s tone justice and once seen is likely to haunt long after. 

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